Hot on the heels of front row starts by the No. 4 Corvette C6.R in both Road America and Baltimore, Oliver today secured second place in qualifying for tomorrow’s penultimate round of the 2011 American Le Mans Series at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, California. His best time of 1:23.124 was just under nine tenths of a second from the pole-winning BMW of Joey Hand.
“We were really hoping the sun was going to shine today and it did!” said a delighted Olly. “It helped us with a bit of track temperature and luckily it all started to come together right at the end of qualifying although it was a bit of a nail-biter of a session.
“Initially I was up behind the No. 62 Ferrari and Toni Vilander was driving quite aggressively and I realised I wasn’t going to be able to get by him. I had to fall back behind the No. 45 Porsche and the No. 3 Corvette to give myself a bit of space, but I just kept making the odd mistake here and there over two or three laps. I’d been losing some time in the “Corkscrew” because I was trying too hard and overshooting the corner.
“Chuck Houghton, my engineer, told me ‘we’re now P5 and just one tenth will put you up to second’ so I told myself I had to pull it all together,” recalled the Northamptonshire-based driver. “On the last lap I backed down a little bit, got through the turn quickly, and then it was just hauling through the rest of the corners to the start-finish line. I knew by Turn 7 that it was going to be a good lap but Joey in the No. 56 BMW was way out front so we were never going to catch him. I’m pleased I managed to get it all together and leapfrog everyone to get up to second, and our Corvette was a lot better in qualifying than it had been in previous sessions here at Laguna.
“We’re hoping for a nice warm day tomorrow, and luckily that’s what’s on the forecast. It was great to get the performance at the end today which puts us still up there with a chance to battle for the championship.”
Olly and his team mate Jan Magnussen will go into the penultimate round of the ALMS second in the GT standings, 25 points behind Hand and Dirk Mueller. With 55 points available in the remaining two races, there is still much to play for in the championship. The six hour endurance race begins tomorrow at 1:30 pm (PT) and finishes in the darkness.